Following the announcement of a new Digital Partnership between the EU and Singapore by President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Lee at the EU-ASEAN summit in December 2022, Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran signed today a Digital Partnership that will strengthen cooperation between the EU and Singapore on digital technology areas.
This Partnership is in line with the 2030 Digital Compass, the European way for the Digital Decade and represents another key step in the implementation of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
“Today is an important step in strengthening our cooperation on crucial digital areas with Singapore. Together, we will promote our vision for an inclusive, sustainable and human-centric digital transformation, which will benefit our citizens and create opportunities for businesses,” Margrethe Vestager (Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age) said.
For Minister Iswaran, “The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership strengthens connectivity and interoperability between the digital markets of the EU and Singapore. It will enable our people and businesses to transact digitally more seamlessly and at lower costs. As a first deliverable, we launched a set of Digital Trade Principles which mark the first step towards a bilateral digital trade agreement that provides legal certainty for cross-border digital trade. I look forward to working with the EU to bring our economic and digital partnership to greater heights.”
The digital partnership is the third closed by the EU with key partners in Asia and comes on the heels of the one inked with Japan (in May 2022 during the 28th EU-Japan Summit) and with the Republic of Korea (in November 2022).
Singapore and the EU share a strong economic relationship, underpinned by the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) which entered into force in November 2019.
The EU is Singapore’s fourth largest goods trade partner globally. In 2021, bilateral trade in goods came to S$102 Bn, representing 8.8% of Singapore’s total goods trade. The EU is also Singapore’s second largest services trade partner globally, with bilateral trade in services exceeding S$67 Bn. Investment relations are strong, with the EU being Singapore’s second largest foreign investor and largest overseas investment destination.
Working together on several key digital fields
Both sides have agreed to work together on critical areas such as semiconductors, trusted data flows and data innovation, digital trust, standards, digital trade facilitation, digital skills for workers, and the digital transformation of businesses and public services.
The Digital Partnership will, for example:
1.- Enhance research cooperation in cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and semiconductors;
2.- Promote cooperation in regulatory approaches such as in the field of AI and Electronic Identification (eID);
3.- Foster investments in resilient and sustainable digital infrastructures, including data centres and submarine telecommunications cables for connectivity between the EU and Southeast Asia;
4.- Ensure trusted cross border data flows in compliance with data protection rules and other public policy objectives;
5.- Promote information exchange and cooperation in the field of cybersecurity;
6.- Build alliances in international organisations and standardisation fora;
7.- Facilitate digital trade, including by working towards joint projects such as paperless trading, electronic invoicing, electronic payments, electronic transactions framework.
“When we join forces with our like-minded partners and act together, we can set the standards of tomorrow’s digital world and defend our common interests. We will work on cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and semiconductors but also data flows and digital infrastructures, building on our dynamic relation,” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market stressed.
Priority areas of cooperation for 2023 were set as well
Following the signature of the Partnership, an inaugural Digital Partnership Council was held, which set the priority areas of cooperation for the year ahead.
Singapore and the EU agreed on key priorities of implementation for 2023 including:
1.- Exploring common approaches in e-identification and in Artificial Intelligence governance
2.- Working on projects to facilitate digital trade and SME’s digital transformation.
The first Partnership Council was co-chaired by Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and Singapore Minister of Industry and Trade S Iswaran.
An economic partnership with principles
Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis and Minister Iswaran also signed Digital Trade Principles. A key deliverable of the Digital Partnership, the Principles seek to facilitate the free flow of goods and services in the digital economy, while upholding privacy.
“Today we are taking our close trade ties with Singapore to the next level. Signing these Digital Trade Principles is a first deliverable of our new Digital Partnership and will facilitate reciprocal trade and e-commerce, a vital sector of our economies. These Principles will help to pave the way towards further engagement on digital trade, including at WTO level,” Valdis Dombrovskis (Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade) underscored.
Image over the headline.- Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton sign the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership. Image by courtesy of the Singapore Ministry of Industry and Trade.
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